Take on Needs
When to Target: Rounds 1-2, 4
Players: Julio Jones, Torrey Smith, Greg Little
Thoughts: In some ways, not much has changed for us since this time last year. It's not that we don't have talent. We just don't have a headliner. Jones would be ideal in the first, but if he's gone, I think Smith in round 2 is probably our best bet at landing a big play receiver with potential to be a starter. Hankerson seems to profile more as a possession guy, while questions about Baldwin's work ethic and open criticism of his coaching staff are serious red flags. Greg Little, on the other hand, has already done his time for inappropriate conduct and hopefully learned his lesson. The risk to reward ratio starts looking real good on him by the 4th round.
When to Target: Early and Often
Players: Robert Quinn, Aldon Smith, Cameron Jordan, Corey Luiget, Stephen Paea, Christian Ballard, Jabaal Sheard, Sam Acho, Drake Nevis
Thoughts:A combination of age and depth issues make the DL a high draft priority. Both Head Coach Spagnuolo and Defensive Coordinator Flajole have built championship defenses anchored by defensive line greats such as Julius Peppers and Michael Strahan, so they know the value of the men in the trenches.
The first round is loaded with defensive line talent, and several of the best will likely be off the board before we ever get a chance to pick. Quinn would be a premium value pick at #14 if he is still available. Smith is a little greener, but either would bring speed to the table to complement Long's technical prowess on the other side. Jordan is a player more in the same mold as Long, which would give a pretty beefy but less explosive look to our line. Luiget might be a little bit of a reach but seems to be creeping up boards. Paea would be a great round 2 value, Ballard only slightly less so, and there are a number of other players I'd be interested in later on.
When to Target: Rounds 2-3
Players: Raheem Moore, Quinton Carter, Deandre McDaniel
Thoughts: Rumor has it the team let Atogwe walk because he was less than a perfect fit for the system, which called for more of an enforcer than a freelancer. However, his departure shifts safety from a position that might have been classified as adequate into the realm of serious need.
Quinton Carter might be the answer, as he quickly made a name for himself as one of Oklahoma's more physical secondary players. There's a chance that Raheem Moore, whom many consider the best safety in this year's class, might also fall into round 2. Both can lay the wood but have the ability to cover as well. Deandre McDaniel is a less fluid player but has linebacker size, loves to hit, and has deceptive speed that lets him come out of nowhere for an interception (although his coverage skills are otherwise lackluster).
When to Target: Mid-Late Rounds
Players: Marcus Cannon, Stefan Wisniewski, Benjamin Iljalina, Will Rackley, John Moffitt, Zach Hurd
Thoughts: It's not the best year for interior linemen. Pouncey will likely go in round one helped by the success of his twin. The 26-year old Danny Watkins will likely also be gone by the time we pick in the 2nd round. After that, a lot of the top guard prospects were actually offensive tackles in college who might project inside.
Massive Marcus Cannon is one such player, but the 358-lb. monster in the weight room could also be a devastating interior player. Rodney Hudson, would seem ill-fit for a team that wants to prioritize power running, as he seems to be more of finesse player. Wisniewski comes from NFL bloodlines, has plenty of legit interior experience, and is probably the only other player worth mentioning at the time we pick in Round 2.
Iljalina and Rackley are both FCS (small school) players who could be had later. However, this is also a position where teams often find suitable starters in the later stages of the draft, so it would not be a great surprise if the team drafted someone most of us have never heard of who turns out to be a starter.
When to Target: Preferably Round 3 or Later
Players: Bruce Carter?, Mark Herzlich, Mason Foster, Jeremy Beal
Thoughts: One of the challenges you run into when talking about outside linebackers is the fact that the position means something a little different and is a lot more important to the 3-4 defense--where they'll be rushing the passer at least half the time. In the 4-3, Will (WLB) is a jack of all trades, Sam (SLB) has to be physical enough to cover a tight end, and at least one of them is subbing out in favor of a defensive back in the nickel package. In a league so oriented toward the pass, some teams use the nickel more than 50% of the time, which means that arguably the quality of the nickel DB is as important as the starting linebacker he replaces.
Thus, I do not advocate taking an outside linebacker early. Miller hasn't done much other than rush the passer. Ayers lacks range, Houston played end when his team ran a 4-3, Brooks played end, ditto Dontay Moch and Chris Carter...Bruce Carter is probably the first guy on most ranking lists whose skill set clearly translates to 4-3 OLB and he's a big-time medical flag on him. It's not that the others couldn't play it, but their ability to read plays and drop into coverage is largely unproven. If Herzlich passes his medical tests, he has to be near the top of this list as well. Those two are probably the only ones I'd want to consider earlier than round 3, and it would be highly dependent on what the team doctors say. Foster I'd consider in round 3. K.J. Wright or Greg Jones (although the latter is usually listed as an ILB prospect) might be effective in the Sam role, while Kelvin Shepherd might be a fit at Will. Jeremy Beal is one pass rusher I still like as a 4-3 linebacker prospect, as well.
Re: Take on Needs
A great read, and I've been taking a liking to quite a few of the players you discuss. Good stuff. Q Carter or McDaniel in the third, Little in the 4th (if there), one of your FCS kids in the 5th definitely would'nt be a bad thing
You should throw up your take on the backs (esp the mid-round value guys -- the quiz/demarco/kendall/jordan - echelon), and maybe even corners (Ras-I, B Harris, C brown etc)
Re: Take on Needs
This was a terrific read.
Re: Take on Needs
Well done GF. You identify our needs along with the relative value of the prospects. I look forward to this draft as it will really put to the test the strengths of our scouts and the decision making by our coaching staff and front office. That happens when you're not selecting #1 or #2.
Re: Take on Needs
If I have the time, I'll try to put up something on the runningbacks at least. I haven't really paid as much attention to the corners because we've taken a corner within the first 3-4 rounds every year for...like forever (Murphy '10, Fletcher '09, King '08, Wade '07, Hill '06, Bartell '05, Groce '03, Fisher '02). So I was thinking surely we won't take one again, but then again, I thought that last year.
I think it will be a bit of an adjustment picking in the middle of rounds. It may mean a little more wheeling and dealing than in past years, especially since our first pick won't be the $50 million white elephant it was last year. Looking at how the Clan Mock and some others have played out, it wouldn't be too surprising to see a trade in either of the first two rounds.